Ethiopian community embraces restoration guided by one man’s vision
I first met Aba Hawi in 2014, at his home in a remote village in the north of Ethiopia. His story amazed me so much that I turned it into a documentary film!
His real name is Gebre-Michael, but locals call him Aba Hawi, which stands for ‘man of fire’. Over the last 30 years he has mobilized his community to completely regenerate their land.
When he first started this work his community ostracized him, as they failed to see that protecting their trees was fundamental to the continued existence of their livelihoods. They even accused him of spying for the rebel army who at that time were fighting the national government. But eventually his efforts paid off. Villages that were on the verge of collapse after years of drought and land over-use are now thriving and self-sufficient. Thanks to his conservation work, once barren hillsides are today covered with forests, cereal crops grow where previously there was only degraded soil, and most importantly, water has returned to the wells. Aba Hawi’s ability to motivate and mobilize an entire community to stay on and restore their landscape surely makes him a worthy Landscape Hero.
The Leuser Ecosystem is a biodiversity hotspot in North Sumatra, Indonesia. It is the last place on earth where you can find critically endangered Sumatran rhinos, elephants, tigers, but most importantly for Panut, Sumatran Orangutans.
Horrified by the rapid rate of deforestation in this key refuge for some of the world’s most loved creatures, Panut decided that enough was enough: it was time to be the solution.
Since the creation of the Orangutan Information Centre, Panut has replaced thousands and thousands of hectares of encroaching oil palm plantations with brand new forests, able to provide orangutans with food, habitat and locomotive pathways in just five years. Panut knew there was no long term sustainability for his projects without involving the local community.
He employed agricultural workers from the plantations to plant trees for him instead, maintaining economic growth in rural villages. This project expanded into orangutan rescue missions and relocation, community outreach programs, tackling forest crime and researching more about the forest and the impacts of his projects. Thanks to Panut, I was able to walk through his brand new forests and see evidence of baby elephants and nesting orangutans. More importantly, I could stand on the tower and look over at the ever expanding canopy with gibbons calling in the background. That’s how I knew deep in my heart that these critically endangered animals wouldn’t be at risk of extinction for much longer.
KOMB green youth group was started in in June 2017 by twenty young people who wanted to restore the banks of Nairobi River banks passing through Korogocho Area. Fredrick Okinda, the founding member of the group, says that they decided to rehabilitate that area as a way to keep themselves busy, seeking a fresh start from a life of crime, by creating a green space where they could rest and interact without fear.
Between 2010 and 2018 they lost 15 young men to mob justice, gang fights and being shot dead by police and this was more than a wakeup call that crime does not pay. The small patch they decided to rehabilitate was so heavily polluted with human fecal matter, they had to handle the waste with their bare hands.
At the same time, they faced a part of the local community that was against the the river bank rehabilitation, since they did not trust the youth-led initiative. One of the green park’s biggest successes is that the youth of Korogocho now have reasons to believe in themselves that something positive can come out of them. Police officers whom the youth once dreaded are frequent visitors to this small Eden and interact freely with the reformed youth as children play and women plait their hair without any fear.
Fredrick requests well-wishers to support the initiative by assisting them realize several self-sustaining programs like construction of toilet facilities. These would be equipped with bio-digesters to generate biogas, which can be then used for communal cooking and heating – users would pay only a small fee which could help building taller gabions along the river in Korogocho.
Building on the engaging discussion forum 12 at GLF Nairobi, “Engaging the Private Sector in Integrated Landscape Approaches: Cases from the African Landscapes Action Plan”, this digital summit will provide bring additional examples from new geographies, new voices, and new insights to this important topic. Panelists will react to the key messages of the GLF Nairobi discussion forum:
Value chain approaches not sufficient to address sustainability issues, we need integrated landscape approaches.
Landscape management can be a de-risking strategy for financing development.
Private sector players and financial institutions can become interested in investing in the landscape if you make a clear business case. Most of them, however, don’t speak the language of landscape yet.
Engaging the private sector is a key action area within the African Landscapes Action Plan (ALAP), which, like AFR100, contributes to the African Resilient Landscapes Initiative (ARLI). Our digital summit panelists will provide insight from both the landscape partnership convener perspective, and from the private sector already engaged in landscape management initiatives.
By sharing cases from both perspectives, we can help both groups see the benefits, and acknowledge and address the challenges, of working together. Through these stories we hope to help more landscape initiatives reach out successfully to private sector partners, and to motivate more private sector actors, of all sizes, to actively seek out opportunities to be engaged and supportive partners in integrated landscape management in the landscapes where they operate. We believe that those working to advance sustainable land and resource use and forest and landscape restoration in Africa can benefit from the collective experience (both successes and failures/obstacles) in engaging with the private sector in the process of collaborative landscape management.
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